Is metal band booker John Finberg guilty of sexual harassment?
After a salacious article about metal band booker John Finberg dropped on Metal Sucks, bands he worked with dropped him like flies, including Iced Earth & Hammerfall. His main bread & butter. European symphonic metal juggernaut Nightwish released an emphatic statement on their social media pages distancing themselves from their now former North American booking agent.
“Nightwish has ceased to employ Mr. Finberg and have severed all contact with him and his company,” the band wrote on their Facebook page the day after the album dropped. The post was signed by Nightwish and Til Dawn They Count, Nightwish’s music management service.
While the fandom rejoiced to the tune of nearly 5,000 reactions and 781 comments, it appears Finberg’s firing should’ve happened much sooner. John Finberg’s horrible behavior was an open secret in the heavy metal industry for years, yet nothing was done to protect fans or up-and-coming bands that tried to get on Finberg’s radar.
These allegations are also nothing new. In a statement following the Metal Sucks exposé, metal band Epica said “We stand with all our colleagues against abuse, racism and sexism in the music industry and the world in general. Due to Finberg’s unethical ways we stopped working with him back in 2014.”
Who is John Finberg?
John Finberg is the owner of First World Talent, a booking company responsible for securing concert venues for local and independent metal bands. First World Talent also secured North American concert venues for well-known European talent in the metal scene, bringing bands like Nightwish & Epica to the U.S.
Bands like Nightwish may be huge overseas, but they’re not so well-known in the U.S. While Nightwish sells out huge concerts and headlines massive festivals like Wacken Open Air in Europe, they play small venues in the U.S. in the fall, between their massive summer festival season in Europe & the winter Carnaval circuit in Latin America.
For John Finberg, working with internationally-known metal bands gave him the power he needed to throw his weight around. According to band members and concert-goers, he used that power to abuse women and threaten metal bands’ careers.
Metal Sucks reported several allegations from concert-goers and emerging acts that Finberg sexually harassed them, even going so far as to spike their drinks. One woman, Jennifer, was invited to the VIP balcony at a “major European touring act” where she recalls John Finberg served her a drink that made her black out.
“I don’t remember anything that happened that night. I was there, one moment I was fine, and soon after I just have no idea whatsoever of anything that happened that night,” Jennifer recalled. She spent that night in the hospital.
Jennifer’s brother, Anthony, corroborated her story. He was there with her and recalled John Finberg kept pushing drinks on his sister. “I was told that John (Finberg) was shoving the bottle directly down my throat. I was not aware at the time, I didn’t know this happened. But he was shoving pure vodka into my throat,” Jennifer said.
Anthony & Jennifer were far from the only people to come forward with allegations against John Finberg. Amy was at a Ministry concert when she recalled Finberg pushing drinks on her. Then, he tried propositioning her. “If I would have sex with him he would bring me on the (upcoming Nightwish) tour, I could do merch, and he could take care of everything, everything would be covered, I wouldn’t have to pay for anything.”
After Amy declined his offer, he would text her upwards of fifteen times a day. One text was a threat. “One of the things he said is he would find out where I worked and he would call them and let them know that I was a terrible person,” Amy remembered.
Amy wasn’t alone in receiving threats from Finberg. Many people coming forward asked Metal Sucks to keep their names & the acts they were associated with private. The reason? They were afraid Finberg would ruin their careers. Rachel, an up-and-comer who met Finberg at a Nightwish concert, told Metal Sucks Finberg threatened to blacklist her in the industry if she didn’t sleep with him.
The last concert the metal band Bonded by Blood performed under Finberg’s management ended in sexual harassment. When Finberg overheard band members making fun of him, vocalist Mauro Gonzales recalled Finberg “flashing his ugly genitals” at the band members. When Finberg got called out for sexual harassment, he angrily replied “If you tell anyone you’re fucking done, your band will never tour again.”
“I like your band, you guys are pretty good. If you can find me a girl in the crowd who will suck my dick in the next three hours, I will get you on a big tour.” Brandley Lawrence, a member of a well-known metal band recalled Finberg saying when he first met him.
Lawrence recalled other disturbing behavior from Finberg, including bragging about having pictures of a woman so drunk, she urinated herself. He also recalled a woman running out of an Epica concert, crying at the sight of Finberg.
It got worse for Lawrence & his band when they added a female member to their lineup. “(Finberg) asked my manager if (their new vocalist) would be willing to ‘take a private vacation’ with him to discuss ‘business opportunities.’”
The industry still protected him
Jennifer was even cautioned by her employers not to talk about the time Finberg nearly killed her. She was explicitly told to keep it off her social media because Finberg could ruin reputations. “That’s one of the reasons why people are afraid and they don’t talk,” Jennifer said, saying that Finberg had the power to ruin metal band performers’ careers.
Jennifer corroborated her story with other women in the industry, who told her his behavior was an open secret, “they all said he’s known for acting this way, he’s done this to other girls, and I started hearing all the stories about him,” she said.
While acts like Nightwish are doing the right thing by severing ties with John Finberg, the question remains: why did the music industry allow Finberg to have so much power over metal for this long of a time?